Writer Tim Jollymore may have moved away, but northern Minnesota is still a part of who he is and what he writes.
Find out more about that when Jollymore — a 1966 Cloquet High School grad — appears at Bergquist's Gift Shop in Cloquet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, when the award-winning author will talk about the inspiration for his stories and poems.
A California transplant for half his life, Jollymore "camps across the western states to visit extended family in northern Minnesota" most summers, when he also makes the rounds of independent bookstores and literary venues, according to his author bio. Otherwise, he writes in Oakland, Calif., and shares free time with his sleepyhead, artist companion, Carol. He lives near his three grown children and cherishes the moments that he gets to yell and scream along with his Viking grandson.
Jollymore is the author of three novels, "Listener in the Snow" (2014), "Observation Hill: A Novel
of Class and Murder" (2015), "The Advent of Elizabeth" (2016), and a short story, memoir, and poetry volume, "Lake Stories and Other Tales" (2017).
The Pine Journal conducted a virtual interview with Jollymore via email in advance of his hometown appearance next week.
Pine Journal: You grew up in Cloquet. Did you always write? Did any particular experiences and/or teachers point you in that direction?
Jollymore: At Cloquet High, I had Elizabeth Anderson two years, 1962-63 and 1964-65, my freshman and junior years. She was my main high school influence to pursue literature and writing. Though I penned a few poems in high school and always wanted to be a writer, I came to prose writing late, after leaving teaching in 2011. At Cloquet I engaged the written word through serious interpretation (speech) and plays. I acted prominent roles in Harvey, Pygmalion, and The Infanta's Birthday. It felt as if I were wrapped in words.
PJ: You wrote your first novel in 2014, the next in 2015 and another in 2016. Why or how did you suddenly become so prolific?
Jollymore: I began writing after I ended my teaching career. My first work was a play, "Pendulum," taking on the vicissitudes of American education. With 26 characters, it was un-produce-able and I moved on to prose. (I saved the play. One never knows.) What came out was Minnesota, perhaps, in a pent-up flood. When I sat down at the keyboard, suddenly there were stories to tell and topics to explore. The torrent has not stopped since. "Why or how" I can't tell, but gave myself five years to "teach myself to write" and am now on year seven, still looking for the perfect story.
PJ: Do your novels have anything in common? How would you describe your books to someone unfamiliar with them?
Jollymore: You won't find kings, spies, or even big-time lawyers in my books. I write about the little men and women, everyday folk. Many of my protagonists are Finnish, some are Ojibway.
My themes are the natural world (and what we do with it), identity, love and loss, class, and relationships among generations. AND if you want to read a well-told story speckled with humor, open one of my books.
PJ: You recently published "Lake Stories and Other Tales" ... what inspired the change in format?
Jollymore: Near Kabetogama I sighted for the first time in 35 years of Minnesota living two timber wolves. The experience was impressive and, when I told a classmate about it, she said, "Oh, do I have a wolf tale for you." I heard it and replied, "I'm writing that one." So I took inspiration from nature and from story to complete the collection I'd been working on for quite some time. Some of the pieces have been in my "to publish later" folder since the century turned. But I had been looking for a strong story to finish the work. In a wolf story, "Trolling," I found it.
PJ: You live in California now but come back to visit. Do you have any places/people you simply MUST see every time?
Jollymore: I have been returning to Minnesota annually since 2004, first to work on a property I have in Duluth and then on book tours. My favorite places are Duluth and Cloquet where I have many high school and college friends, but I go all over the state, through northern Wisconsin, upper Michigan and even into Iowa. I have a brother in Lake Elmo and see him when I visit Minneapolis.
PJ: Where can people purchase your books?
Jollymore: I will have all my books with me at Bergquist's on Sept. 16. People can also buy copies locally at Zenith Books, UMD Bookstore, Fitger's Bookstore, and, really, any independent bookstore in Minnesota.